This interview was originally published in Korean by Seungho Choo. The original article can be read here.
Hongsu Jung, CEO of 4DReplay, is used to receiving better feedback from the global market compared to back home in Korea. The company creates exciting video highlights for sports such as baseball and basketball with its time slice video technology. And when sports fans see exciting moments from their favorite sports in 360 slow motion, they can’t help but be impressed.
Finding a way into Silicon Valley
Jung had his first taste of Silicon Valley last year while taking part in the Korean Innovation Center’s (KIC) acceleration program. At the time he couldn’t stick around long, as he was in the middle of traveling the world carrying out meetings and signing contracts. Nevertheless, he tried to stop by the area as often as he could while he prepared to enter the US market.
“We needed time to verify whether our product was right for the American market. It took about one year of meeting with local mentors, investors and business clients before we made a decision as to whether it was viable.”
Jung proposes that the way to get a proper handle on market viability is to meet with local venture capitalists and listen to what they have to say. He says that no matter how good your product is, if local VCs aren’t interested, then there is no future in the market.
In Jung’s case, he only met with local VCs involved in the media industry and is already on his way to gaining his first round of funding for his venture. The company has even begun the process of moving its headquarters to its overseas entity so that it can receive future investment.
With the help of Gyeonggi’s CCEI center, 4DReplay entered the renowned Plug and Play incubator program in January.
Jung says that “the best thing that Korean startups can get from overseas accelerators is local connections.” And emphasizes that rather than programs which focus on things like how to pitch, the most important thing startups need to enter Silicon Valley is a network which can connect you to the people who are there.
In a similar vein, 4DReplay have been able to meet local media representatives and VCs through mentors while in the Plug and Play program.
“We get a lot of people asking us how long it took to develop our technology. Although it took around one year, without seven years’ experience at Samsung, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off in that amount of time,” Jung says.
Jung left Samsung in 2012 with a mission to found 4DReplay. With his many years working in the camera department of Samsung SDS, he had originally proposed the idea of a camera that could be used in various industries, but this got rejected. That led him to think, “Why don’t I just do it instead?”
While, the camera idea was based on his experience with cameras, the idea for 360 replays came from playing online baseball games.
“While playing the game, if you hit a homerun then it would show the player running around the bases in a 360 degree view. That’s when I thought it would be great to try and recreate that in real life.”
After realizing that just thinking about his ideas would get him nowhere, he set out to turn his plans into reality, though it didn’t go so well at first. Over time things gradually got better, and after a year of development, he was able to produce the technology 4 Replay is using now.
Jung says that there is only one other company in the world with the same technology, and that it was recently acquired by Intel. This doesn’t worry Jung, who confidently says that 4DReplay’s technology is superior and renders much faster than its rival’s.
“The other company’s technology takes two minutes to create a video. Ours does it in just 5 seconds, and we’re planning to reduce this to 3 seconds.”
After first putting the new camera technology to use at the 2014 Asia Games in Incheon, 4DReplay went on to sign contracts with KBSN Sports and SK Wyverns. Its technology will also be used at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Pyeongchang, Korea.
Making waves at MWC2017
4DReplay also garnered interest at the most recent MWC event in Barcelona and took part in the 4YFN (4 Years From Now) event. Only four startups recognized as leading companies get the chance to pitch at the event, and 4DReplay was the only Korean one among them. This opportunity got the attention of several corporations, and the company is currently in discussions to produce videos with numerous global companies. While Jung says he can’t reveal these plans yet, he says that they are companies that anyone would know.
4DReplay plans to make itself home in the US market this year, with its first goal being to pin down a broadcasting contract with Major League Baseball and the NBA.
“Technologically, there is nobody that can rival us, and we believe that it’s impossible for anyone to copy it. We’ll be working hard this year to create successes in overseas markets, rather than the Korean sports market which is much smaller,” says Jung.